English feature

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is the final part of a his long-form essay on workification.

Part 4: The Garden Of Digital Delights

In past installments of Workified Games I’ve looked at ways that video games, their fans, and their creators have been inundated by workaholic tendencies. In part three, I proposed that leisure could be a new ideal that could help inspire us escape the mire of workification. But lest this sound like an outsider being preachy and this series get pegged as some sort of partisan argument, I want to acknowledge that much of what I’ve been saying has been and remains part of video game fan folk wisdom across genres and communities. After all, what Animal Crossing player hasn’t cursed out Tom Nook at some point for being a loan shark/raccoon? What WoW player hasn’t grumbled about doing endless dailies to earn reputation? What Final Fantasy 8 player didn’t grumble about the bullshit way dungeon speed equates to gold earned? What young Minecraft player hasn’t been frustrated by having to burn a huge amount of time searching ever deeper for a rare material to build their whimsical castle? What Destiny player hasn’t griped about the other people on repetitious runs being like abusive coworkers?

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is part three of four of a long-form essay on workification.

Part 3: A Celebrating Spirit

The last installment of Workified Games explored how the tendencies to fetishize work in video games overlap deeply with definitions of workaholism. I also talked about how the moral mandate to be constantly productive permeates contemporary Western society, especially the technology sector. But what then precisely is the problem with video games’ focus on work? What is lost because of this obsession with accomplishment? After all, unless you’re of the radical anarchist mindset of Bob Black’s infamous call for “full unemployment,” most people, myself included, find doing a good job at work deeply fulfilling.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. This is part two of four of a long-form essay on workification.

Part 2: The Grind Has Become The Feature

In the previous installment of this series I charted how video games have become entangled and infatuated with work. It might be easy to explain these predilections simply because work is a major part of many peoples’ lives. Or inversely this work-obsession could be video games striving to provide rational rewards as an antidote for lack of control at our day jobs. Similarly, not all games break when you try to approach them with exceptional or novel ways of playing (the now-infamous solo eggplant run in Spelunky being a fantastic example ). Still it remains the case that a large majority of games are obsessed with replicating work roles, structures, and attitudes.

Bridging Worlds is artist Eron Rauch’s ongoing series of in-depth articles on the curious places of connection between video games, contemporary art, and culture. Lovingly crafted for passionate audiences, these long-form pieces are perfect for Sunday reading alongside a warm beverage.

Part 1: Gotta Grind For Those Boots

I work too much, but like many Americans I find there are always bills to pay and projects to finish. Like many Americans, I also love to come home after a long day of work and unwind by playing video games, but lately this supposed transition from work to not-work seems like clocking out of one job and into another.

Games can be more than mere entertainment. In our column Alt+Home intermedia artist Kent Sheely explores the ways independent developers are challenging the status quo.

The subject of in-game photography has been addressed at-length, not least here on this very site, gamers and artists alike having long ago discovered the potential for turning their screens into a camera lens for capturing stunning images of the artificial worlds they inhabit. This is a natural development, as the rectangular format of the screen already lends itself to the form factor of a photograph. Entire blogs and exhibitions have been curated based on the idea, which in itself raises questions about the nature of photography & what sets a real photograph apart from a virtual one. Duncan Harris has made a name for himself by taking stunningly well-composed screenshots using a number of different modifications and tools.

Artists such as Robert Overweg have even gone beyond merely capturing images of the game world as it’s presented and attempt to catch games in glitched states, depicting the inner workings behind the facade. The argument about whether screenshots can be art has long since been put to rest, but the way games approach the concept continues to evolve and give us new ways of approaching this documentary practice in interactive media.

Games can be more than mere entertainment. In our column Alt+Home, this time, intermedia artist Kent Sheely explores the ways video games can be played against their creators' intentions.

If you've never played any of the Call of Duty series, there are two details you should know. First, these games are typical first-person shooters, which means you will likely mow down a few hundred enemies before the credits roll. Second, they are presented as highly cinematic experiences, in which a lot of combat and action is happening around you at all times, most of which is tertiary to your character’s goals and is present only as atmospheric context. You are meant to feel like just an ordinary soldier within the ranks of a larger force. However, because you are the protagonist of the story, you’re expected to be on the front lines doing a lot of the dirty work yourself if you're playing as intended.

Tangiers has been on my radar for a long, long time. Announced and Kickstarted in 2013, the stealth game inspired by the surreal and dark imagination of William S. Burroughs has had a few delays. I talked with Alex Harvex, Tangiers lead developer, about games and literature, Burroughs and the experience of mixing literature and video games.

Literature - at least "serious", high-brow literature - and games usually remain worlds apart. What inspired you to try and take William S Burroughs' (WSB) work as the starting point for Tangiers?

Quite simply and quite selfishly, I wanted to make a game that I'd want to play! When I entered into thinking of making Tangiers, there was a significant trend of indie games relying on introspective nostalgia. The appeal of Fez for example was completely lost on me, and I found that incredibly alienating.

Games can be more than mere entertainment. In our column Alt+Home, intermedia artist Kent Sheely explores the ways independent developers are challenging the status quo, creating brand new experiences, and making a difference in the world.

I don’t do a lot of driving. I’ve lived in New York City for the past six years, relying mostly on public transit, and haven’t spent a lot of time behind the wheel. However, I just finished moving all the way across the country to Los Angeles, a road trip that more than made up for that gap.

On long stretches of American highway I had a lot of time to reflect, and I thought quite a lot about games that simulate the experience of driving. There’s certainly no shortage of these, but most treat the vehicle and its occupant(s) as a single entity, as if the player were controlling an autonomous machine. In my own experience, it’s easy to focus my attention entirely on guiding a 7,500-pound vessel between the endless white lines, but simple actions like reaching for a strip of beef jerky or changing the radio make me acutely aware that in those moments I am effectively two entities.

A handful of games in recent years have explored this duality, challenging the player to consider both the vehicle and the driver within as individual elements.

When Eron asked me a while back if VGT would be willing to run a series of essays on the aesthetics, the design and infrastructure of MOBAs, I agreed blindly. And in a literal sense, too: Although I have been playing video games for a quarter of a century and nowadays even earn part of my rent writing about them, I was pitifully ignorant of a phenomenon that is not even just the future, but very much the present of video games.

As Eron writes in his introduction:

The broader problem in talking about video games in a nuanced way is massively amplified with MOBAs since [they] are tricky for both lay and academic audiences, especially since it can take literally hundreds of hours to learn to play these games with any amount of skill, let alone to explore their communities.

This hits home especially for those writing about games professionally: In the already hectic circle of news-previews-release-reviews-oblivion, there is simply no time for most journalists to spend that amount of time on a single game, period. (And to point out a fact most readers of games journalism might be unaware of: Most of the men and women writing about games who are lucky enough to be paid at all, are freelancers. That means they are paid for the text, and not for the time spent playing the game they report on. It's only the absolute minority of games journalists, usually those actually employed by the few remaining specialist outlets, print or online, for whom play time is paid work time. Let that sink in for a minute.) The title of this series is well chosen: It is a de-mystification that's going on here, all right, and a very welcome one at that.

Bridging Worlds is a series by LA-based artist and VGT author Eron Rauch about the blurred line between games and art. His multi-part essay "Demystifying MOBAs" takes an in-depth look at the game design of esports and MOBAs. This is the final part.

Watching ten people sit hidden behind computer monitors on a stage might sound like the very stuff that purgatory is built of, with a barrage of swirling laser lights and dubstep blasting only adding insult to injury. But a massive number of people have come to love watching esports, and by massive I mean top tournaments for Defense of the Ancients 2 (aka Dota2, by Valve Corporation) and League of Legends (aka LoL, by Riot Games) can draw tens of millions of viewers, which is on par with top traditional sporting events like the baseball World Series. Blizzard/Activision’s Heroes of the Storm (HotS) doesn’t draw quite as many viewers, but was only launched in the middle of 2015, and is backed by the company that has historically been a pioneer of esports via StarCraft.